Author: Roxanne St. Claire
Genre: YA, speculative fiction, fantasy
Publication Date: July 10, 2012 (North America – Random House)
Summary: When plain and unpopular Annie Nutter gets zapped by one of her dad’s whacked-out inventions, she lands in a parallel universe where her life becomes picture-perfect. Now she’s Ayla Monroe, daughter of the same mother but a different father—and she’s the gorgeous, rich queen bee of her high school.
In this universe, Ayla lives in glitzy Miami instead of dreary Pittsburgh and has beaucoup bucks, courtesy of her billionaire—if usually absent—father. Her friends hit the clubs, party backstage at concerts, and take risks that are exhilirating . . . and illegal. Here she’s got a date to lose her V-card with the hottest guy she’s ever seen.
But on the inside, Ayla is still Annie.
So when she’s offered the chance to leave the dream life and head home to Pittsburgh, will she take it?
The choice isn’t as simple as you think.
☆: 3/5 stars – a great YA debut, but played it way too safe.
Review: While this was adorable to read, I feel like St.Claire really played it a bit too safe here. This is the third (or fourth? I can’t remember) book this year that has been/will be released with a plot founded on M-Theory/the Multiverse theory of quantum physics, and while some have knocked it out of the park (I’m looking at you, “Unraveling”!) and some still did a fantastic job (“Fair Coin”, also looking at you), this one just felt too neat, too tidy, and not risky enough to feel real. With the “official” discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle as declared by CERN a few days ago (“the god particle”), it feels especially relevant that YA should start talking about M-Theory/quantum physics, but everyone knows that it’s not as neat and wrapped-up as St.Claire makes it to be. While I enjoyed “Don’t You Wish” quite a bit, I just wish there’d been more risk (and therefore, more tension) involved with the story, period.
I think one of things that bothered me the most (aside from the lack of risk) with this story was the worldbuilding when it came to the secondary world (“Ayla World”). While it rides on the already established pieces of the first world, if this were really an alternate universe, it wouldn’t have had just different people (or none at all) substituting in for those found in the original universe. There would have been different buildings, events, important pieces of history that would have changed in this alternate universe. I think St.Claire had a wealth of potential she could have seized upon to further build the story (and its risk/tension), but she didn’t. And that disappointed me greatly.
As for the story itself, it’s very stable and well-made for a basic YA tale. The characters were pretty realistic, the worldbuilding problematic, and the basic arc just too safe (and made my attention wander). It’s not bad for a first YA effort, but at the same time, as there have been some absolutely outstanding YA debuts this year, I guess I’ve just grown to expect more from YA, period.
However, I will give props to St.Claire for even dipping her toes into the explanation of M-Theory, and I thank her for making it as simple and as clear to understand as possible. This would be a great book for starting younger YA kids or older readers on understanding M-Theory, even if they don’t understand the math behind it (and I’m one of those people). So good on you, St.Claire, for doing that at the very least.
As for the basic storyline – I felt like “The Lying Game” series did the “alternate self” (though in that series, it’s twins) living the high life much better. Here, when applied to a single child and an alternate universe, was interesting, but just kind of fell flat after a long time in Ayla World with little to no reference of going back home.
So, final verdict? This one will be a great introduction to alternate universes/M-Theory for younger YA readers, but older YA readers might want to try something more sophisticated as this is just very basic. “Don’t You Wish” is out July 10th from Random House in North America, so be sure to check it out then!